How to Boost Online Store Sales with the 6 Principles of Persuasion?

As an online store retailer, your success depends on persuading online store visitors to buy your products (improve conversion rate). Furthermore you need to persuade your customers to buy from you over and over again (improving lifetime value).  

Online stores are a great example of persuasion principles applied to the online marketing environment. Most of our purchase decision making is driven by these six timeless principles of persuasion, that will most likely drive us towards the desired objective set by the online store retailer. Herebelow is an introduction on how to use persuasion to improve conversion and customer lifetime value.

First of all, Wikipedia defines Persuasion as: 

“Persuasion is an umbrella term of influence. Persuasion can attempt to influence a person's beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. In business, persuasion is a process aimed at changing a person's attitude or behaviour toward some event, idea, object, or other person(s), by using written, spoken words or visual tools to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination thereof.”

In online marketing persuasion is commonly used to describe any intent of the website or online store to change your attitude or behavior towards a specific goal without applying any coercion or deception. This goal could either be subscribing to a newsletter, clicking into an ad, or making a purchase or any other action that benefits in some way the store or website.

Persuasion is related to psychology, primarily because it is related to human behavior and the human mindset. In 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini wrote a book called “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” that defines the six principles of influence and persuasion:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Commitment & Consistency
  5. Liking
  6. Social Proof

1. Reciprocity: Give a Little to Get a Little in Return

The first one we are going to talk about is reciprocity, mainly because it is one of the most important and basic laws of social psychology, it basically states that we tend to pay back what we receive from others. This is actually very common in marketing and sales.  An example could be those restaurants or fast food services that offer free samples of their spotlight product. This actually increases your engagement with their product and also makes you more likely to buy from the store. Another study shows that a waitress who gives a mint to her customers when delivering the bill will increase her tip by a 4%, but if she gives them two mints the tip will not double, but will quadruple to 14%. More interestingly if the waitress gives the two mints with an extra compliment to the customer the tip could increase to 23%. This shows that not only is the gift important, it is how it is given that is very important. The reciprocity principle works best whenever you give a personalized and unexpected gift to a customer.

Ideas to trigger reciprocity:

  • Free content and guides
  • Adding a bonus gift to the order
  • Free consultations
  • Live chat

2. Scarcity: When you believe there are just a few items left and you will need to purchase before the item becomes unavailable!

Scarcity is the phenomenon where, when something is limited in availability or rare (or perceived as one), it becomes more attractive. In marketing this is mostly used to engage with the customers creating the illusion that their product will be gone forever. Scarcity states that things are more valuable when they are less available. 

Many important brands uses scarcity as a part of their recurrent marketing strategies. A great example of this could be Nike and their Jordan line.  The Jordan products always comes in limited quantities, making those who follow the product hasten to purchase before they run out. Google+ was another great example of this. I think we can all recall getting our google+ invitation (which could only be obtained by another person who had already been invited).  Under this same system of exclusivity the great amount of 10 millions users joined the social platform in just two weeks. When the platform was available for the rest of the users, 400 millions users subscribed in the first year of service. Both these examples show how big brands use the scarcity principle to provoke their customers to react illogically. 

Ideas to trigger scarcity

  • Quantity-related scarcity (4 seats left at this price)
  • Time-related scarcity (last day to buy)
  • Sell product only until date xx.xx.
  • Give limited bonuses to x buyers
  • Give extras to people who buy before xx.xx date

3. Authority: You will believe what I tell you.

The principle of authority is based on the perception we have on others and their job, financial status or university title making us feel the duty to do as they say or follow their lead or example. One of the oldest and most common examples of this could be doctors, we just straight believe on what they say because well, they are doctors. 

 Dr. Cladini explains the three factors that triggers the authority principle:

  • Titles: Dr., Prof., Ph.D., Founder., CEO, Chairman
  • Clothing: Uniforms, suits, religious outfits
  • Trappings: Accessories, that either go along with certain positions or roles, e.g police badges, expensive suits, cars and jewelry

These factors can trigger the principle of authority even in the absence of actual genuine authority. Using authority symbols such as awards, seniority, industry accreditations, and expertise can help persuade users to undertake a desired action on your site. 

Ideas to trigger Authority

  • Create & share high-quality content to position your brand as an industry authority.
  • Show possible Company’s awards / testimonials
  • Show the expertise of your staff
  • Show product awards / testimonials
  • Contribute to or sponsor relevant industry events

4. Commitment and consistency: People want their beliefs to be consistent with their values

The principle of commitment and consistency declares that we have a need to be seen as consistent. For example if we have publicly committed to something or someone, we are more likely to deliver on that commitment…hence showing consistency. In other words once someone makes a commitment, his opinions and actions become aligned and are consistent with that commitment. Essentially, he feels bound by that commitment

For example you can rely on getting site visitors to commit to something small free of charge, as download guide, take a test, give opinion etc this increases the likelihood that these committed site visitors will eventually see themselves as customers, which allows you to follow up with an offer to buy their products or join their services.

Ideas to trigger commitment & consistency:

  • Allow your users to book appointments themselves
  • Ask the customers (Immediately after the purchase) if they think it’s likely they buy again.  Most will say “Yes”. Now you’ve triggered their internal drive to be consistent with that statement.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend marketing  to small customers / new customers. Improve lifetime value for these smaller once.

5. Liking: the more you like someone, the more you’ll be persuaded by him

We like saying yes to those we like. But why do we like people and how is this applies to marketing and business? Well, there are three factors on why we like other people and why dislike them as well. We like those who are similar to use, those who compliments us and those who work with us towards a mutual goal. We trust word of mouth recommendations from peers and endorsements from our favorite celebrities,

There are 5 factors that empowers the principle of liking:

  • Physical attractiveness: We are very visual beings, and good looks often suggest favorable traits such as honesty, humor, trustworthiness
  • Similarity: We like people similar to us in terms of interests, opinion, personality and background.
  • Compliments: We all love to receive compliments by other people or brand and we tend to like those who compliment us.
  • Contact Cooperation: We tend to feel more involved with other persons that works with you on a common project or goal.
  • Conditioning and Association: We are used to watch those commercials with sports cars and models with it. And we like watching models, and thus the car behind her.

For example as an online store owner you might want to boost conversion rates simply with a very well-executed “About Us” page. That sounds absurd, but it makes all the sense to the visitor that can understand better what kind of similarities there are between your store and site visitors. Since similarity is one of the key building blocks of liking, you now see why investing time in an effective “About Us” page is so vital.

Ideas to trigger liking:

  • Update About us page
  • Generate customer personas and engage your visitors with content
  • Use influencer content that engage your customers
  • Contribute to charitable causes

6. Social proof or Consensus: You’ll act the way others do. The safety is in the numbers.

The social proof or consensus, it’s a psychological and social phenomenon where people tend to copy others actions in a specific situation. This said, social influence is a powerful tool, because we have a natural tendency to do things our peers do or suggest. As Cavett Robert has said that “Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”

Social proof is more prominent when the situation are outside of the ordinary, a good example could be black fridays, where people act outside of the ordinary run towards shelves and fight for discounted products. If we get caught in a situation like this is most likely that we will also adopt their behavior. Another example of this could be trying a new restaurant only because you always see it packed with clients (so there must be something good in there)

Ideas to trigger social proof:

  • Photos with real people and the products
  • Testimonials
  • Facebook, instagram, twitter etc likes
  • Reviews
  • “Other customers bought” product recommendation
  • Blogger / Influencer content


How to start?

Actually, you have probably already used influence or persuasion, but you might want to re-think all your written, visual, and video content on your online store based on these six principles of persuasion to increase conversions. These are quick ways to get the attention of your visitors and to influence them to purchase. The name of the game is: persuasion. Identifying, understanding, and learning more persuasion techniques will undoubtedly increase the amount of sales, traffic, and interaction with your customers!

Don’t be afraid to give your potential customers a free sample or two, use influencer content, ask for reviews, and definitely mention how your products won’t be available for much longer at certain prices if they don’t act fast. 

If you have too little time to focus on boosting sales, outsource your logistics as 90% of Fortune 500 Companies have done!

A good 3PL partner:

  • Enables strategies to minimize and manage cost
  • Improves efficiency and transparency
  • Helps to minimize your time consumption and thus maximize profitability and successful running of the business
  • Supports international growth